Friday, December 11, 2015

Theological Roots of Bitter Battle of Some Christians Against LGBT Rights: The Bible Can't Be Wrong (We Can't Be Wrong, and Heterosexual Men Rule)

Here's a set of interlocking observations that, to my mind, share a common theme: 1) a comment an Episcopal priest made to me yesterday about why some streams of Christianity are so adamant today in their opposition to LGBT rights; 2) Diarmaid MacCulloch on the same topic and how it's all about shoring up the supremacy of heterosexual males; 3) David Marr's commentary on why the Australian Catholic bishops are bitterly opposed to legalization of same-sex marriage; and 4) Fred Clark's account of the baffling determination of some U.S. white evangelicals to continue, generation after generation, choosing the wrong side of the moral arc of history in battles for human rights:

1. This is a statement I shared with Facebook friends yesterday:

An enlightening conversation I had today with someone — an Episcopal priest — with a lot of wisdom: 
I said to her that it boggles my mind that many Christians today have decided to make the exclusion and denigration of gay folks the doctrine by which the church rises or falls — to cite Luther's phrase, an articulum stantis et cadentis ecclesiae
Her reply: it makes perfect sense. Many streams of Christianity coming out of the Reformation rejected the pope as the ultimate religious authority, since he clearly can be wrong. They then transferred their certainty to the bible as an infallible, inerrant text. 
In the modern period, they first lost the battle of biblical inerrancy over the issue of slavery, and then over the issue of women's place in the world. Christians who think this way are now locked into a bitter, fight-to-the-death battle to avoid giving any ground on the issue of homosexuality, since they realize that losing that battle will decisively and finally prove that they've been wrong to hinge all their certainty on the notion that the bible is literally infallible and literally inerrant. 
This makes eminent sense to me. And, of course, other streams of Christianity including the Roman Catholic one have made common cause with evangelical Christians fighting this battle, for different theological reasons, but primarily because both are intent on preserving the privileged status of heterosexual males and their right to lord it over women and LGBT people.

2. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years (NY: Penguin, 2009):

Behind the passing conflicts of the moment lies a debate throughout Christianity about whether the Bible and Christian tradition can be wrong and can be changed. It is also a debate about whether God's plan for the world centres on the supremacy of heterosexual men. "Male headship" is one of the overriding concerns of the Sydney variant on Anglicanism, and worldwide, those Anglicans opposed to any change on attitudes to same-sex relationships overlap fairly snugly with those opposed to the ordination of women to the priesthood or consecration to the episcopate, who use the same sort of arguments (pp. 1009-10).

This goes much deeper than bigotry. It's about claiming the most intimate power over believers, the power to forbid any sex without the blessing of the church. That means never before marriage; never outside marriage; and, of course, never with the same sex. 
These ancient rules were law for centuries. Judges and police were supposed to jump to the aid of bishops and preachers. The noose and the stake sent the worst offenders to hell. Shame did the rest. 
Nearly every one of these laws is dead and gone after titanic brawls we tend to put out of our minds because they seem, in retrospect, so absurd. This is a mistake. The lesson is that we're fighting the one battle here, over and over again. 
And because the warriors of the faiths know the tide of popular opinion is running strongly against them, they fight for keeps. They realise no defeat will ever be reversed. It's once and forever. 
So they dig in with a particular and at times comic ferocity. The example of the world counts for nothing in their eyes. Though equal marriage has been embraced by nearly every Western nation, the warriors are fighting to the last – just as they fought no-fault divorce, the morning-after pill, IVF for lesbians, smut on television and sparing gays the useful terror of prison.

4. Fred Clark, "If X Is Not Wrong, Then Nothing Is Wrong," Slacktivist: 

[A]fter World War II, white evangelicals were given another chance to regain some measure of moral credibility — legitimately, and not just as a distraction or an attempt to change the subject. The Civil Rights Movement had begun in earnest with sit-ins and boycotts and voter-registration drives. Here was an opportunity for redemption. This time, having learned from our monstrous mistakes in the past, white evangelicals could step up on the right side of morality and justice. 
Oops, we did it again. The majority of white evangelical Christianity not only failed to support the Civil Rights Movement, but it actively participated in the political, and often the violent, opposition to it. 
White evangelical Christianity had exposed itself, again, as at best morally impotent, irrelevant and insignificant, or, at worst, as morally bankrupt and thoroughly, sinfully corrupt.

The roots-in-the-bible graphic is everywhere online, but I haven't seen any information about its original source. 

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